Media Ethics in Lebanon Lack Proper Implementation

September 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

There’s no shortage of workshops on media ethics and concomitant codes of conduct in Lebanon, but how are those guidelines being implemented?

“Recently we’ve seen a number of ethical issues on different (TV) channels that didn’t take those harmed or the targeted group into account,” said “Soins Infirmiers et Développement Communautaire (SIDC) Secretary General Karine Nassar.

The Beirut-based SIDC, or Nursing Care and Community Development organization, conducted training for journalists this week on controversial and sensitive social issues.

Lebanese Press Federation Ethics Code

But it’s more than just sensitivity that’s required.

There’s also the handling of graphic content in print, on the air and online, notably when social media often beat traditional media to the punch.

Viewers have more opportunities–some of them unavoidable–to stumble onto graphic content. This shift demands serious attention from news organizations. That’s compounded by the potential for psychological harm to journalists, whose jobs require them to work, sometimes extensively, with traumatic material. The answers aren’t simple, but the problems are clear.

Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism and Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma hosted a panel of experts to discuss the issue.

“As we know from our recent research, authenticity is one of the qualities news audiences most revere about eyewitness media,” wrote Pete Brown, research director at the Eyewitness Media Hub. “Our focus group participants argued variously that eyewitness media was more ‘real’, more ‘spontaneous’, more ‘intimate’ and less ‘controlled’ than professional news output.”

The impact of trauma and its ethical implications have yet to be studied carefully in Lebanon to mitigate further damage to journalists, social media users and recipients/consumers.

When it’s not a Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach, the beheadings, burning and drowning of people who may be considered apostates, the gruesome body parts of suicide bombers and their victims, it’s probably verbal and/or physical abuse that passes for news coverage.

They’re at each other’s throats – literally – live on the air for all to see their violent behavior, stirring ratings wars and social media fury.

Even a TV show called “Bi Mawdouiyeh” (Objectively Speaking) isn’t immune from the occasional round of fisticuffs between opposing participants.

Screen shot of fight between politicians on “Bi Mawdouiyeh” TV talk show

“Talk shows set aflame: Abused media people who dish out abuse” headlined the Lebanese daily Annahar on media ethics (or the lack thereof) on Lebanese TV channels and in the country’s countless publications.

According to Nahawand Al Kaderi, a media professor/researcher at the state-run Lebanese University, political talk shows are built on differences and the conflict of opposites, with guests selected on that basis to create a particular scene and live action in the studio since programs require excitement.

“We’re living in a world devoid of standards and media ethics, notably with new technology and development,” she said. “It’s chaotic and anyone can be himself and his complete opposite, so we must work on the profession and the syndicate must play a role as the journalists did in the past.”

But it’s not easy when the Lebanese Press Federation promotes a code of ethics focused on print media dating back to 1974 and expects journalists to abide by it.

Not only are legacy broadcast media ignored in that code, but online versions of traditional media today get short shrift while blogs, other forms of digital multimedia and social media aren’t taken seriously, except when they rub politicians or authorities the wrong way.

In the latter case, said authorities and detractors start clamoring for “stiff media ethics codes,” to control unruly practitioners, in a bid to stifle them.

Lebanese Information Minister Ramzi Jreij recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United Nations Development Program to re-invigorate a newer code of ethics launched in 2013 by the two bodies and funded by the European Union.

The 12-page “Media Code of Ethics to Reinforce Civil Peace in Lebanon” is a hodge-podge drawn from Lebanon’s antiquated 1960s print media law, 1994 broadcast media law, equally retrograde codes of conduct from other Arab countries, with a dash of guidelines from the BBC and the International Federation of Journalists.

Screen shot of “Media Code of Ethics to Reinforce Civil Peace in Lebanon”

Luca Renda, the UNDP’s Lebanon country director, said the MOU was a voluntary initiative not aimed at controlling the media but that it constituted a form of self-censorship for the benefit of the Lebanese people and society.

Neither he nor Jreij explained exactly what, or how much, self-censorship that meant.

While Lebanese media have a wider margin of freedom than their counterparts in neighboring countries, they’re burdened by sectarianism, racial discrimination, disrespect for people’s dignity and privacy, and a glaring disregard for accuracy.

Screen shot of UNDP country director for Lebanon Luca Renda
and Information Minister Ramzi Jreij

Rumors also play a key role in the dissemination of information in Lebanon, to the detriment of civil peace and the country’s overall stability.

In August 2014, I wrote that rumors were Lebanon’s daily bread with legacy media and citizen journalists accused of fanning the flames amid domestic political unrest, economic uncertainty, and regional upheaval whose sparks are burning Lebanese fingers.

The remedy: Better implementation through persuasion (not sledgehammer practices) of ethics guidelines to safeguard the media’s reputation.

“Whether it is an online media platform known for cat gifs, or a dry newspaper focused on impressing the upper echelons of power – one common denominator is crucial for success: credibility,” wrote Mina Al-Oraibi, a veteran Arab journalist and Yale World Fellow 2015.

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The ‘Bizarre’ End Of Holly Madison’s Relationship With Hugh Hefner

September 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

For Holly Madison, life in the Playboy mansion as Hugh Hefner’s main girlfriend often seemed, on the outside, like an endless party. But, as Madison wrote in her wildly revealing memoir earlier this year, her reality inside those walls was much darker, filled with Quaaludes, manipulation and sex. It was so dismal, Madison said, she even contemplated suicide. (Hefner has responded to her claims by saying that his ex-girlfriend has “chosen to rewrite history.”)

On “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, Madison opens up about her experiences, including the downfall of her relationship with Hefner. In discussing their break-up, Madison says that the beginning of the end came when Hefner’s two other girlfriends, Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt, chose to move on from the relationship and leave the mansion. That decision, Madison says, opened her eyes.

“I just had enough. I had realized all the delusions I’d been under and that this was no longer the life for me,” she says.

Madison decided it was time for her to leave as well — and that’s when she says things came to a head.

“The whole thing kind of came to a bizarre peak when I went into Hef’s room to pack up the remainder of my things,” Madison recalls. “I found on my side of the bed a folder that he left out.”

Inside that folder was a copy of the Playboy mogul’s will.

“In his will, he left me $3 million,” Madison says. “It was very clear to me that he left that out for me to see because he was hoping it would change my mind and get me to stay.”

Instead, the gesture seemed to have the opposite effect.

“It just kind of disgusted me more than anything,” Madison says. “All he can do is say, ‘Oh, here, I’m going to throw you some money to get you to stay.’ It just… grossed me out.”

Madison reveals more about her time in the Playboy mansion on Saturday’s episode of “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, airing at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

For more from “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, visit

?Also on HuffPost:

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Donald Trump Vows To Boycott Fox News, Reigniting Feud With The Network

September 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

NEW YORK — Donald Trump is done with Fox News … again.

Trump, who got into a public feud with the network after last month’s Republican presidential debate, tweeted Wednesday that he is boycotting Fox News.

.@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won't be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2015

Fox News said that Trump’s abrupt decision came shortly after the network canceled an upcoming appearance of his. 

“At 11:45am today, we canceled Donald Trump’s scheduled appearance on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ on Thursday, which resulted in Mr. Trump’s subsequent tweet about his ‘boycott’ of Fox News,” a spokesperson for the network said in a statement. 

“The press predictably jumped to cover his tweet, creating yet another distraction from any real issues that Mr. Trump might be questioned about,” the statement continued. “When coverage doesn’t go his way, he engages in personal attacks on our anchors and hosts, which has grown stale and tiresome. He doesn’t seem to grasp that candidates telling journalists what to ask is not how the media works in this country.”

Trump has been criticizing the network on Twitter for the past several days. The back-and-forth that culminated in Wednesday’s tweet is the latest episode in an on-again, off-again feud between the Republican presidential front-runner and the most powerful media outlet in Republican politics. 

The network plays an outsize role in the GOP primary, with candidates more likely to kiss chairman Roger Ailes’ ring than publicly antagonize the political operative-turned-powerful media executive.

But Trump, whose presence at the Fox News debate on Aug. 6 surely contributed heavily to the event’s record ratings, is not your average Republican politician. He’s a bona fide celebrity who seems to be able to appear on any network at any time and monopolize the political conversation on Twitter. 

Immediately after the debate, Trump complained to reporters that “the questions to me were not nice.” He accused co-moderator Megyn Kelly of asking “unfair” questions to him about his history of misogynistic statements. Kelly, Trump said, “behaved very nasty to me.”

But the candidate went further the next night by suggesting Kelly had been menstruating during the debate. He called in to four Sunday shows on Aug. 9 to claim that his words — that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” — had been misinterpreted. The following day, Trump and Ailes reached a truce, and the former reality TV star returned to the airwaves the next morning. 

But by the end of the month, the two media titans were at it again. Trump launched another Twitter broadside against Kelly on Aug. 24, prompting Ailes to call on him to apologize.

Trump subsequently went missing from Fox News for a couple weeks. 

Still, even given the spats, Trump received more airtime on Fox News than any other candidate in the month of August. 

On Monday, Trump fired off some disparaging tweets during “The O’Reilly Factor.” The next day, he took aim at Kelly once again.

.@oreillyfactor, why don't you have some knowledgeable talking heads on your show for a change instead of the same old Trump haters. Boring!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2015

I am having a really hard time watching @FoxNews.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2015

Do you ever notice that lightweight @megynkelly constantly goes after me but when I hit back it is totally sexist. She is highly overrated!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2015

The attacks come just as Trump’s polls numbers have begun to slip

It’s not uncommon for Trump to swipe at the media over any perceived slight. And his stated opinions of journalists and news outlets are known to shift from week to week. 

For instance, Trump praised CNN just moments after last Wednesday’s Republican debate, saying the network did a “very good job” hosting the event and that he believed he “was treated fairly.” On Tuesday, however, he said CNN treated him “unfairly” during the debate.

Earlier this month, Trump lashed out at conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who co-hosted the CNN debate, calling him a “third-rate radio announcer.” But Trump was back on Hewitt’s show this week. 

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As a Journalist, I’m Ignoring the Producer Who Called My Head Covering ‘A Distraction’

September 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

I became a journalist to pursue transparency and truth while lending my perspective as a Muslim to clarify misrepresentations of Islam and Muslims.

I’ve finished my master’s degree in journalism and as I enter a profession in which the opportunities are endless, I wonder: Can a Muslim woman wear hijab and be a successful on-camera reporter?

Recent events ranging from the arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed to the outrageous anti-Islamic comments by our potentially next president have sparked a nationwide discussion of the insidious effects of Islamophobia in the United States.

Islamophobia. It’s real. And it’s been real.

I remember my first experience with discrimination. I was speaking Arabic to my brother at a grocery store. A white, elderly woman turned around, glared at me and viciously scorned me for not speaking English. As a 10-year-old I did not understand why she was so upset. I was just telling my brother he couldn’t eat his Snickers bar before we paid for it. What was the big deal?

As a child with a mother who wore hijab, I distinctly remember being honked and attacked with racial slurs. My favorite: “Go back to your country!”

Very original.

I remember feeling people’s eyes with disapproval and annoyance whenever she spoke her mother tongue.

As a child I realized I was different from many Americans. And I struggled with juggling the two ideologies.

“You can just call me Nora,” I told people who couldn’t pronounce my name.

For someone who’s been wearing the hijab for almost four years, I see the differences in how I am perceived — and they are obvious. Small talk is no longer about the weather but about the politics and conflicts in the Middle East.

I’ve learned that I need to try harder, smile more and be more appealing just so people can get past my hijab. It’s a piece of fabric — not a second head.

I’ve come to surprise people with my “perfect English” and my response to the question, “Where are you from?” The answer: “Chicago.” Clearly, the answer never satisfies.

This past year I was covering the Chicago mayoral elections. During that time, I was asked by a journalist if I was a reporter for a television channel in the Middle East, the assumption being that I couldn’t possibly be a U.S. journalist.

I’ve been fighting to stand my ground in the journalism world, even while I was a student.

In my broadcast class in Chicago, students were given the opportunity to produce live shots for a weekly newsmagazine, Illinois Business This Week, which would air on one of PBS’s affiliates.

But when the day came to do the live shots, there was a problem.

My professor, Cheryl Jackson, told me the producer hesitated to put me on the air, saying my head covering could be “a distraction.” In the end, after some back and forth, I was allowed to do the live shot, but have yet to hear if my segment was ever broadcasted. I’ve also sent him multiple emails and asked for a comment about what was said, and he never responded.

A distraction. My hijab was called a distraction.

I was speechless, furious, disappointed but most of all – hurt. Where did my hardheaded Arabness and my I-don’t-give-a-shit American attitude disappear to? During this journey, I knew that this very incident would happen, but why was I filled with all this sorrow?

I know why: Because it was happening, because it was real.

That day, I discovered that I am to pay the price for expressing myself. I am to pay the price for following a certain religion. I am to pay the price for donning the hijab. I am to pay the price because Arab plus Muslim plus hijab does not equal a true “American” identity.

I look around and see different ethnicities, religions and races, and ask myself, “What does it even mean to ‘look’ American?” Why is my true self perceived as contradictory to the definition of being American? Why am I constantly expected to demonstrate and flaunt my commitment to my country?

I am an American. For some, my physical appearance may not scream patriotism, but an American I am — a proud American too. I vote, pay my taxes, obsess over boy bands and, as a Chicago native, hold a firm commitment to never putting ketchup on my hot dog.

A photo posted by Noor F. Wazwaz (@nfwazwaz) on Aug 4, 2015 at 9:21pm PDT

I couldn’t help but be critical of every detail of the situation. For instance, why was the fact I wear hijab relevant or even necessary to be mentioned, and, furthermore, why did it require approval?

Sure, maybe Cheryl’s observation that there aren’t any Muslim hijab-wearing reporters made her think ‘better safe than sorry.’ But isn’t this the root of the problem? Was a physical description of all my other colleagues presented to the producer as well?

Let me make this clear: I do not wish to be an on-air reporter because of my hijab or to be showcased as a workforce diversity case. Just as it would be taboo and distasteful to only identify someone as the “black reporter,” I do not wish to only be identified as the “hijab-wearing reporter.”

By doing so, we are undermining all the hard work and talent of individuals. The hijab does not define or represent my skills as a journalist. My biggest accomplishments should not be based on the quality of work, not on identity. Is it too much to want individuals to focus on my storytelling, skills and love for journalism?

??? ?????

A photo posted by Noor F. Wazwaz (@nfwazwaz) on Aug 3, 2015 at 8:42pm PDT

I took a look at the news organization’s website and read its mission statement declaring it was dedicated to bring communities together and “committed to diverse perspectives.”

These are strong and meaningful ideas, but even the greatest and most powerful mission statements fall flat unless they are shared and executed effectively. If media organizations with a mission statement like this fail to follow through on their commitments and goals to contribute to social change, then who will? In addition to addressing the legal underpinnings and requirements of diversity, they should also leverage the diversity that exists within the community.

As I struggled with my disappointment, Cheryl told me five words that reignited my passion and will continue to resonate with me as I continue on this journey: “We won’t let them win.”

I hesitantly nodded my head in agreement.

What’s important to note is my interpretation of winning. This victory can only be attained when we, as a society, can come together and work for true change, when we establish a platform where voices are not silenced because of their race, religion or ethnicity but are embraced, encouraged and allowed to contribute their diverse perspectives.

When I got home, I took off my hijab and looked at myself in the mirror. I thought to myself, “If only.” Did I want to take off my hijab? At that moment, yes. Did I think it was the right decision? I had no idea.

What I did know was that this meant I would be surrendering and trying to find the easy way out. Wearing my hijab is my decision, and I won’t let anyone take that freedom away from me.

Several students in my class went out of their way to support me, giving me a renewed focus, as well as hope that truly I was not alone and that a more enlightened generation will resolve a dilemma like this.

I mentally took a trip back in time and remembered the struggles of other groups of people and how they were able to challenge our society, fight back and win.

The past mirrored the present so faithfully.

I reminded myself: We are the next generation who will clean up this inherited mess.

We are the next generation of journalists, and we won’t let them win.

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Clear and Present Danger

September 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1919 that sometimes it is necessary to restrict freedom of speech. Holmes said that the test was “whether the words… are used in such circumstances as to create a clear and present danger.” Donald Trump’s words linking vaccination to autism constitute such a danger to the health and well being of all children. And two of the other candidates, who are genuine physicians, passively colluded with Trump’s fear mongering by not confronting him directly. Shame on both of them.

We all know that Trump is reckless — that he’s more than comfortable speaking his mind. He is not concerned about being politically correct. It is even refreshing to hear his disdain for politicians who use focus groups first to test and then shape their ideas. But at one point in the debate he moved from being merely irresponsible to becoming outright dangerous. That was when he linked vaccination to autism. In a single moment he endangered the health and even the lives of countless children by authoritatively warning parents of the risk vaccination poses.

Moderator Jake Tapper confronted him, reminding him that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated unequivocally that there is no link between vaccination and autism. But Trump did not back away. He said, “You take a beautiful baby and pump it [he paused] with what looks like it’s for a horse and not for a child.” He then said, “Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Tapper then asked Dr. Ben Carson what his take was on Trump’s medical opinion. Carson first joked, saying, “He’s an OK doctor.” And even though Carson went on to say, “we have it well-documented that there is no autism associated with vaccinations,” he added that some doctors may give the shots too close together. Rand Paul, also a physician, added his libertarian perspective that parents have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to immunize their children.

Those two doctors should have their medical licenses reconsidered, and maybe even revoked for their passive collusion with Trump’s lies.

Ignorance is not just bliss, and preying on the ignorance of others by misinforming them is not just a source of power. Trump went a vital step further when his reckless words morphed into a clear and present danger to the health of our young. He must be confronted, then forced to retract his language and finally forced to encourage all parents to vaccinate their children. Period. End of story.

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(VIDEO) Advertisers Fueling $1bn Content Piracy Scourge: GroupM’s Montgomery

September 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

Whether it’s fraud or viewability, the growing laundry list of things advertisers are now complaining about, in the digital advertising ecosystem, was neatly summed-up this week in a tweet by LUMA Partners’ Terence Kawaja:

But there is yet another industry practice to add to that list – pirate sites, which rip off premium publishers’ content in order to attract audiences, and ad spend. That doesn’t just hurt publishers affected – it also threatens advertisers, who want their ads to appear on kosher sites.

“I think it’s understated – I think it’s a billion-dollar problem,” says GroupM Connect’s north America chairman John Montgomery, in this video interview with Beet.TV.

“This isn’t something that (advertising) clients get immediately. They say, ‘Why is it my problem if content is being pirated?’ Clients don’t realise that their ads are what’s fuelling the profits of the at-risk entities, the pirate sites.

“It’s a serious, long-term problem. There are a lot of non-legitimate sites making tons of money. Our clients’ ads are making this happen.”

GroupM started working on its own approach to tackle the problem a couple of years ago, and, this February, the  IAB’s Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) created a certification that will allow advertisers through compliant platforms to buy ads only on unpirated content.

Montgomery acknowledges the challenge: “The cheaters are always one step ahead of the chasers.” But he reckons recent initiatives will help: “It’s going to dry up the area of great funding for these pirate sites. It’s something that we can stop.”


This interview is part of a series of videos leading up to the DMEXCO conference in Cologne. The series is presented by 4C Insights + Teletrax.

You can find this post on Beet.TV.

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Inside The School Where Children With HIV Find Refuge From Discrimination In China

September 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

Kun Kun, a young boy living with HIV, was banished from his village in China last year by residents who described him as a “ticking time bomb.” The case drew international attention to the severe discrimination faced by children with HIV in China.

Kun Kun has since found a new home, at the Green Harbor Red-Ribbon School in Linfen, China. The boarding school is a rare refuge for HIV-positive children in China, where infection rates are relatively low, but social stigma is high.

The school is the subject of an ambitious documentary project called “Children of the Harbor,” which is following the students’ passage through the boarding school until the first class graduates in 2017.

The project was conceived by Bryan Anker, a 27-year-old medical student originally from Los Angeles, who lived at the Green Harbor school in 2012 during an internship at the affiliated hospital.  

“It broke my heart to learn that these children had been shunned by society all of their lives,” Anker told The WorldPost by email. ”The level of awareness these children possess is mind-boggling. They fully comprehend their current situation and are well aware of how society perceives them.”

Anker and his small team of filmmakers, including Myanmar-based photographer, journalist and cinematographer Ann Wang, started to document the students’ lives in December and plan to follow their stories through graduation. “We want to film up to this point and see what road the students take after graduation. Will they go to university? Will they return home? Will they find a job?” Anker said.

“These children are smart and resilient, and some of them have thought up intricate plans for escaping the HIV stigma in China,” he told The WorldPost. 

The school was set up in 2006, and is home to around 30 children and teenagers with HIV, ranging in age from 6 years old to 19.  The students have “very complicated feelings … about themselves, about the school and about the disease they’ve been carrying since birth,” Wang told The WorldPost by email.

Many of them are the children of patients being treated for HIV/AIDS at the affiliated Linfen Infectious Disease Hospital; others have been orphaned by AIDS or thrown out of their schools and local communities due to stigma.

This is a pervasive problem for children with HIV in China. “If their HIV status has been disclosed, it’s very common that parents of other children complain to the school and force the school to separate their children from HIV positive children,” Xu Wenqing, an HIV/AIDS specialist at UNICEF China, told The WorldPost by email. 

Nearly 10,000 children in China live with HIV/AIDS, among some 500,000 reported cases in the country. (Experts estimate the total number of cases, including those undiagnosed, may be around 800,000.) This is relatively low compared to countries like the U.S., which has a population a quarter of the size of China’s, and an estimated 1.2 million HIV/AIDS cases among people 13 or older. 

Yet discrimination is widespread, and affects old and young alike in China. Advocates say people known to be HIV-positive are often barred from attending collge or refused public and private-sector jobs. The main problem is a lack of information about HIV/AIDS, including how it is transmitted and treated. Experts point to China’s poor sexual health education and the ongoing repetition of myths about HIV by public officials. 

China’s leaders have made a high-profile effort to combat this prejudice in recent years, as well as stepping up free treatment for AIDS patients and measures to prevent mothers from passing on HIV to their newborn children. In 2006, a new law banned discrimination against people living with HIV, although it has been difficult to enforce. On World AIDS Day last year, China’s first lady Peng Liyuan released a music video with the students of Green Harbor-Red Ribbon School, urging an end to the stigma they face.

Anker hopes that telling the stories of the children at Green Harbor can convince more people to leave their prejudices behind.

“I believe the children’s stories are so poignant, and their personalities so radiant, that our viewers won’t have any choice but to empathize with their situation,” he said. 

To learn more about the media project and support the documentary, go to the Children of the Harbor website.

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Fox News Host Says Ahmed Mohamed ‘Did A Really Dumb Thing’ By Bringing Clock To School

September 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

A Fox News host on Thursday defended the suspension and arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old student who brought a homemade clock to school that his teachers mistook for a bomb.

Andrea Tantaros said on “Outnumbered” that the Muslim teen did a “really dumb thing.”

“This story … has everyone, I think, scratching their heads,” she said. “This clock — does anyone think that it did not look like a dangerous weapon out of a ‘Die Hard’ movie?”

Ahmed, a 9th-grader at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, brought a homemade clock to school on Monday to show off his love of robotics and tinkering with gadgets. He said he hoped his teachers might be impressed by his abilities. Instead, the student found himself taken to the principal’s office, interrogated, arrested and taken to a detention center, where officials took his mug shot and fingerprints. After police realized the clock wasn’t a bomb after all, Ahmed was released and all charges were dropped against him. 

All the while, the teen insisted that he had simply built a clock.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” police spokesman James McLellan told The Dallas Morning News. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

That’s because it was just a clock.

Yet Tantaros still defended the school and law enforcement officials for the actions they took against Ahmed.

“The teacher did her job,” Tantaros said. “We have an FBI document out there right now that talks about what to look for. Okay? This is part of it and we’ve seen terror attacks before. We’ve seen them use cell phones and innate objects.”

Later in the segment, Tantaros conceded that the arrest was “probably over the top,” but maintained that the student should not have done what he did.

Tantaros was also critical of President Barack Obama’s open support of Ahmed. As outrage spread over the school’s and police department’s reactions to the clock, Obama, along with other politicians and high-profile scientists, rallied around Ahmed and his passion for science.

“What the president did, by elevating this story to national attention, is he basically got rid of ‘If you see something, say something,’” Tantaros said. “And look, Ahmed is a smart kid. He’s probably going to go to MIT and make a ton of money, but he did a really dumb thing and brought it to school and the president just elevated this to a national issue that doesn’t deserve elevating, frankly.”

H/T Media Matters

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Will the Media Call Out Donald Trump on His Anti-Vaxxer Nonsense?

September 18, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

By any reasonable standard of what constitutes acceptable public discourse, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign should have ended on Wednesday at about 10:50 p.m.

That’s when he set his extravagantly sprayed hair on fire by indulging in some truly dangerous myths about vaccines. It was, by any measure, a deeply irresponsible exercise. I’d call it pandering, except that it’s possible he believes his own foolishness.

It began when CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper invited candidate Ben Carson, a physician, to lambaste Trump for repeating the false claims of the anti-vaxxer movement linking vaccines to autism. Carson responded mildly — too mildly. And that gave Trump an opportunity to pounce.

“I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” Trump began. A few seconds later came this: “Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Sadly, neither Carson nor the other physician-candidate, Rand Paul, wanted to rile the conspiracy theorists they’re hoping to win over. So both men oh-so-respectfully disagreed with Trump while actually endorsing his statement that parents ought to be able to spread out the timetable for their children to get vaccinated.

“It is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time,” Carson said. Added Paul, who’s traveled down this road before: “I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.”

In case you’re not up on all the details, Julia Belluz of Vox offers an overview of the “elaborate fraud” behind the thoroughly debunked link between vaccines and autism. As for Trump’s spread-them-out advice and Carson’s and Paul’s weasely responses, science journalist Tara Haelle wrote in Forbes:

Vaccines are very precisely manufactured to include only what is absolutely necessary to induce enough of an immune response that the body can protect itself against those diseases. So a smaller dose wouldn’t protect a child. It would stick a child with a needle for no reason at all. And spreading out vaccines? That just increases the risks to the children, including leaving them more susceptible to the diseases for a longer period of time.

So what was CNN’s responsibility in promoting Trump’s life-threatening views? Some, such as Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan, took to Twitter to argue that Tapper shouldn’t have asked the question in the first place.

I disagree. If, God help us, Trump actually got elected president, he’s going to be besieged by anti-vaxxers demanding that he translate his rhetoric into policy. Then, too, Michele Bachmann in 2011 and Chris Christie earlier this year did enormous damage to themselves by embracing the anti-vaccine movement. Why should it be any different this time?

Still, Wednesday night felt like a botched opportunity to educate viewers about importance of vaccines.

Media reaction to Wednesday night’s anti-vaxxer moment was slow out of the gate, but by later Thursday and on Friday it had picked up. A particularly intriguing tidbit comes from Stat, a life-sciences vertical that’s part of the Boston Globe. According to reporters Eric Boodman and Ike Swetlitz, Trump is both a donor to and supporter of Autism Speaks, which emphatically rejects the anti-vaxxer myth.

In the immediate aftermath of the debate, the most addled take was offered by the Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes (God love him), who wrote that Trump ”surprised everyone, including Dr. Ben Carson, by being well-informed on the use of vaccines. As usual, he was a powerful presence.” You can’t make this stuff up.

The New York Times Tuesday morning had little except for a line in Gail Collins’ column and an item by Margot Sanger-Katz in its liveblog; later in the day it posted a strong article by Sabrina Tavernise and Catherine Saint Louis. The Washington Post published a long post by Michael E. Miller headlined “The GOP’s dangerous ‘debate’ on vaccines and autism.” Here’s how Miller described Carson blowing the big moment Tapper handed to him:

For months, Carson has touted his medical expertise while on the campaign trail. And in the weeks since the first debate, the famed surgeon has risen in the polls as a milder-mannered, more rational alternative to Trump.

Now was his chance for a home run; a big hit as swift and incisive as any surgical operation.

Instead, Carson bunted.

In PoliticoBen Schreckinger speculated that Trump’s “weak command” of the issues — including vaccines — may be the prelude to his long-anticipated decline. “The conversation has moved beyond Donald Trump,” he wrote. Added Jamelle Bouie of Slate: “The good news is that this debate might mark the beginning of the end for Trump, who struggled to tackle substantive questions on foreign policy, his advisers, and what he’d actually do as president of the United States.”

We’ll see. Some 51 percent of respondents to a survey posted at the Drudge Report thought Trump won; Fiorina came in second with just 19 percent. It was totally unscientific, of course, but more than 680,000 people took the time to register their views.

Overall it was a dispiriting night. It was somehow appropriate that it ended with the news that right-wing hatemonger Ann Coulter was ranting on Twitter about the “f—ing Jews.” I mean, really. What else?

The vaccine issue, though, deserves to linger — and fester, and grow, until all but Trump’s most unhinged supporters understand that this man has no business being anywhere near the White House.

An earlier version of this commentary was published at

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DNC Chair Defends Debate Schedule As GOP Contests Grab Attention

September 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Videos

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – As reporters swarmed candidates Wednesday night following the second Republican presidential debate, another record-setting television event, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she wasn’t worried about her party being left out of the 2016 conversation.

“I want the American people to get as much of a look at these Republican candidates in these debates as possible,” she told The Huffington Post. “The food fight that they had tonight was extraordinary in its extremism.”

Democratic campaigns have criticized the DNC for starting debates a couple months after the Republicans and limiting the process to six sanctioned events — a schedule that’s perceived to help front-runner Hillary Clinton. While the RNC rolled out its schedule in January, the DNC announced its plan just last month, with the first debate set for Oct. 13 in Nevada. Only four debates will occur before voting begins in Iowa next year.

Politico reported Wednesday on the rift between Democrats over the schedule amid perceptions that Clinton is being protected by party leaders.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and his campaign have been the most vocal critics of the DNC plan. Campaign manager Dave Hamrick told Politico that “every Democratic campaign and the DNC should have to explain why we are ceding the discussion and attention to the Republicans by refusing to the kind of robust debate schedule we’ve always had.”

Wasserman Schultz defended the DNC’s schedule Wednesday night in the post-debate spin room at the Reagan Library. The process allows candidates “the opportunity to balance the time they need to spend in the early primary states, in particular, doing the retail politics that is so important for them to be able to have those voters kick the tires,” she said. 

One critique of the Republican process has been that candidates who rank lower in the polls would feel compelled to be spend more time in TV studios, rather than meeting voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. That’s because GOP candidates vying for a primetime spot on the Fox News or CNN stage needed to boost national poll numbers — a feat that might be more easily accomplished by appearing on cable news or late-night talk shows, as opposed to campaign stops at coffee shops.  

Though many Americans likely tuned in to the Republican debates to see what Donald Trump might say next, the much-anticipated events have also provided significant exposure for the party’s many candidates, allowing some strong debaters — like former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina — to increase their standing nationally. 

The second Republican debate, which has been the biggest story in politics in recent weeks and received saturation coverage on CNN, is expected to be the highest-rated event in that network’s history, following a record-setting night last month on Fox News. 

“We will have, in a month, an opportunity in a debate,” Wasserman Schultz said. “But we already have an ongoing opportunity with our candidates to draw the very clear and serious contrasts for voters across America.”

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